People right to be wary of TransLink’s privacy promises 0
(24 HOURS FILE PHOTO)
Columnists Laila Yuile and Brent Stafford battle over the issues of the day. The winner of last week’s duel on TransLink was Laila Yuile with 74%.
This week’s topic: Is the ability to track your movements through the Compass Card an invasion of privacy?
In an age when increasingly invasive technology is exposing people’s personal information, it’s no surprise that privacy issues are getting so much attention. However, in the race by service providers to provide the latest innovations, I think we are overlooking the bigger picture of privacy and data collection.
TransLink has recently faced questions about its involvement in a traffic-flow map project that provides real-time data from cell phone signals — using GPS technology — to provide information to drivers.
By law, TransLink should have commissioned a privacy-impact assessment for the project, but chose not to after determining the data they collected was anonymous.
Enter the new Compass Card. TransLink expects the public to take their word it when assuring commuters the information stored by the new card is secure as well.
TransLink states that none of your information is stored on the regular cards — it’s held in a secure data format elsewhere. Loading a Compass Card with cash and not registering it will maintain your anonymity. However, if you use debit or credit card to load it, and/or register that card for balance protection as well, your personal information is now linked to that card.
At that point, your movements could be tracked as you tap in and out of the system — and could be open to requests by law enforcement.
In fact, as early as 2010, Australian TransLink officials (same name, same issues!) revealed that police were not only using the info to pinpoint criminals, but potential witnesses as well.
It doesn’t stop there. In Australia, travel data can then be cross-indexed with CCTV camera footage, cell phone usage and GPS positioning, all leaving a clear trail of where you have been, who you were with and what you were doing.
That constitutes an invasion of privacy in my opinion. It should have you questioning why and how our personal information is being stored, who has access to it, and for what purpose. Where else and who else could access transit records? Could it be subpoenaed in divorce court or personal injury cases?
It’s time we took a hard look at how much privacy we give up for the sake of convenience. The new Compass Card is yet another case in point.
Laila Yuile is an independent writer, blogger and political commentator. You can read her blog at lailayuile.com.
Who wins this week's duel on Compass Card and privacy?